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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
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American Pride Undermined by Inaction in Syria

We can afford a few cruise missiles fired at Bashar Assad’s air force and presidential palaces.
us policeman of world

I’ve heard many people say that America has no vital national interest in Syria. Well, how about this.

When I was an American living in England for 11 years it stuck me that one of the principal differences between my country and the UK was the lack of Union Jacks flying from people’s homes and businesses. In America countless homes have the stars and stripes flying as do many stores. It’s ubiquitous.

Why the difference? I always believed it was the fact that Americans have immense pride in being American while other countries don’t celebrate their national heritage as much. Yes, the British do so on special occasions like a royal wedding. But we Americans do so on ordinary days as well.

The reason: because America stands for something. It was the world’s first modern constitutional democracy. It threw off the yoke of a tyrant and established the people’s rule. More recently it liberated Europe from the tyranny of Nazism, liberated Iraq from the mass murderer Saddam Hussein, and was instrumental in purging Libya of the butcher Gaddafi.

Americans are justly proud of how we embody human liberty. Europe was once part of this alliance, especially in the Second World War where Britain, especially, was exemplary. But since them, the Europeans have taken a cynical approach to liberating incarcerated peoples and the prevention of genocide.

But what happens to American pride when we begin to watch bodies of gassed children and choose to remain innocent bystanders? What are we to be proud of then? A lofty standard of living? High speed internet? Cheaper gas then Europe?

Americans are driven to advance their country because they believe in their country. Our national promise is predicated on an affirmation of our values.

I cannot imagine loving America with the same passion that courses through my veins if America doesn’t use its righteous might to protect the innocent and the weak. I will always be a proud American. But that pride stems from the values we espouse and promote.

Yes, I realize we can’t be the world’s policeman. Even our strength and resources are limited. But I come back to a famous Rabbinical teaching in Ethics of Our Fathers that says, “It is not for you to complete the work, but neither can you wash your hands of it, either.” We’re not obligated to intervene in every atrocity. Nor are we capable. But neither can we turn a blind eye to the most egregious violations of human rights. If we do so then we are misusing the wealth and strength of our nation.

The Rwandan genocide, whose twentieth anniversary is this coming April, was all coordinated from a single radio antenna. The United States was asked to fire a single missile that would have destroyed the transmitter. The Clinton Administration refused because it was spooked by the events of Black Hawk down that had transpired a few months earlier in October, 1993. But that one missile could have largely prevented a mass atrocity that claimed the lives of nearly one million people.

We are not the world’s policeman. And our national debt is becoming a crisis of its own. But we can afford a few cruise missiles fired at Bashar Assad’s air force and presidential palaces, which will force the tyrant to live in the underground bunkers that should be the abode of monsters who gas their people.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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7 Responses to “American Pride Undermined by Inaction in Syria”

  1. Bill Fuentes Christensen says:

    Union Jacks, Stars and Stripes and a few cruise missiles here and there?

    Who is the terrorist who wrote this article?

    A Rabbi! Well, go figure… Mind your own business, Rabbi Shumley.

    You profess, as an American, "we are not the world's police", then you float right back to the flippant "what's a few cruise missiles gonna hurt to make (read "control out of fear") Assad go underground…?"

  2. Bill Fuentes Christensen says:

    Union Jacks, Stars and Stripes and a few cruise missiles here and there?

    Who is the terrorist who wrote this article?

    A Rabbi! Well, go figure… Mind your own business, Rabbi Shumley.

    You profess, as an American, "we are not the world's police", then you float right back to the flippant "what's a few cruise missiles gonna hurt to make (read "control out of fear") Assad go underground…?"

  3. Wait a minute!

    “Union Jacks”; “Stars and Stripes”, American pride is hurt, and we are NOT the “world’s police”; is that what I just read?

    OK… Then what’s with the flippant argument about tossing a few Cruise Missiles at Assad anyway? Hmmm?

    Who is the “terrorist” here, Rabbi? Huh? What a “manipulative” article!

  4. Edward Lobel says:

    I usually disagree with Rabbi Shumley but in this case I have to agree with him.
    The problem with not going after the poison gas situation is that the Rabbi’s party, the repubs/tp (more commonly referred to as the Party of Stupid,) in it’s effort to make all things Obama mean bad things has boxed itself into a corner in this situation. You see it is the POS who is gung-ho on bombing everyone and anyone (it’s good for business,) so they wave the flag and talk about patriotism , However in this case since President Obama is for the bombing, by virtue of the POS standing against Everything President Obama is for, was forced to come out against the bombing!

  5. Earl W. Littlefield Jr says:

    Rabbi, you are leading your "flock" astray. Atrocities abound on both sides in Syria with Obama's Al Qaeda killing as many or more than Assad's army. Assad should be brought to court & convicted of his crimes & dealt with according to law. To ask America to stoop to criminally attacking a nation without provocation is a call to terror & chaos. If America cannot abide by the law in dealing with those it dislikes, how can America ask any other country to abide by the law? Lead a righteous path, Rabbi….

  6. Jack Zeller says:

    The issue is not who are the worst characters in the civil war. It is bigger: indifference and moral equivalency. Earl, there is a time for everything. Now is not the time to imagine never to happen court appearances.

  7. Anthony Kent says:

    Rabbi, England is very patriotic. When you were in England, the far right appropriated the English flag of St George. Because of soccer, this has now ceased. British are not as showy as Americans. Do not confuse that with lack of patriotism and pride.

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